Armed with the first pick, how did the Carolina Panthers‘ 2023 NFL Draft grades pan out? Fair or not, the choice made by Frank Reich and Scott Fitterer at the top of the board will have ramifications for years to come.
Carolina Panthers NFL Draft Grades
Round 1, Pick 1: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
A team will never get less than an “A” of some kind from me if they spend a first-round pick on a potential franchise QB. The Panthers did their due diligence on all of the top QBs and landed on Bryce Young as the pick. That’s their decision, and it has merit.
Young has all of the intangibles you want in a potential franchise QB. On the field, his ability to so calmly operate inside and outside the pocket amidst chaotic situations has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame NBA point guards. Distribution and playmaking — these are the aspects of the QB position that are most important, and Young passes in both areas with flying colors.
Young can be the Panthers’ franchise QB with his on-field creation capacity and off-field mentality. But the thing that keeps this pick from being an A+ is the upside the Panthers left on the table. Carolina has the infrastructure necessary to help a quarterback like Anthony Richardson reach his generational ceiling. Time will tell if they regret passing on that opportunity.
Round 2, Pick 39: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
The Panthers aren’t wasting any time giving Bryce Young weapons. With the 39th pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, Carolina selected Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo, adding him to a receiving corps that already has DJ Chark, Adam Thielen, and Terrace Marshall Jr.
Mingo projects extremely well to the Panthers’ offense. Thielen is the chain-mover, Chark is the big-play threat on the boundary, and Mingo can be the elite RAC threat underneath with dual-sided vertical appeal. At 6’2”, 220 pounds, Mingo has rare frame density and play strength for a WR. Additionally, he’s one of the most explosive wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft in the open field.
Mingo can continue to refine his route tree, but his unique physical profile presents immediate appeal on schemed touches. He has the explosiveness to stress defenses vertically and the body control to convert on contested attempts. Mingo’s also a phenomenal run blocker, as a bonus.
Mingo was one of several quality WR options at this pick, but his ceiling might be the highest.
Round 3, Pick 80: DJ Johnson, EDGE, Oregon
The Carolina Panthers’ roster is slowly coming together, but there was a glaring need at EDGE heading into the season. Opposite Brian Burns, the Panthers don’t have much in the way of a pass-rushing presence. They added DJ Johnson, in hopes that he’ll help with that.
The upside is a prime selling point with Johnson. A former tight end, Johnson stands at 6’4”, 260 pounds, and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He’s explosive, has good speed around the arc, has a solid power profile, and brings a hot motor on the attack.
All this being said, Johnson is relatively raw with his hand usage and pass-rush plan, and he turns 25 years old in October. There are also potential concerns with on-field discipline. On my board, Missouri’s Isaiah McGuire is the far superior EDGE prospect, and he’s three years younger. Every team’s board is different, but it’s tough to get behind Johnson over his counterpart at Missouri.
Round 4, Pick 114: Chandler Zavala, G, NC State
The Panthers’ line is almost set, but one could argue they can upgrade on Brady Christensen. Chandler Zavala has the athleticism in space, driving power, and finisher mentality to eventually factor into the starting equation.
Round 5, Pick 145: Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State
The slot position is still unsettled for the Panthers. Jammie Robinson may factor into that equation down the line. He’s shown he can line up in the nickel spot and man up receivers, and as a safety, he’s a physical competitor downhill who plays with urgency. His versatility is a great value proposition at this point, and his high-energy play style can precipitate to his teammates.
What Were the Panthers’ Biggest Needs Entering the Draft?
- QB, EDGE, WR
The Carolina Panthers will select a quarterback with the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. And while there is a slim chance they move back a pick to recoup some of the draft capital they spent on the move up, they’ll most likely sit and take the guy they love most. In a class with so many different types of quarterbacks, it would be impossible not to fall in love with one of them.
Brian Burns is one of the best natural pass rushers in the NFL, but we’re all still waiting for Yetur Gross-Matos to elevate his game. Carolina also lacks depth on the edge and could add some veteran help to quench their thirst in the meantime.
Moore’s departure makes Carolina’s WR need all that more evident. Adam Thielen helps, but the team lacks a true WR1 now, and a true No. 1 is a massive help for a young QB.
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